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Colección: La Educación
Número: (129-131) I,III
Año: 1998

Introduction

Between 1992 and 1995, 16 environmental assessment (EA) capacity building workshops were held in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and organized by the World Bank Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Sector Management Unit (LAC/LCSES). The Bank’s Educational Development Institute (EDI) and the Norway Environment Consultant Trust Fund provided financial support. The workshops, which have to date trained in excess of 500 mid-level managers and technical staff, were timely as many LAC countries are experiencing a renaissance of increased environmental consciousness. In at least three cases,1 this institutional support helped catalyze a new focus in redrafting national constitutions—recognition that sustainable development and environmental protection are fundamental for attainment of national development objectives. Additionally, as is indicated in Table 1, several other LAC countries have recently redrafted environmental statues, established new environmental ministries or have created environmental units within sectoral ministries, with responsibility to produce documentation required by international agreements (see Table 2).

TABLE 1
TABLE 2

Given that many of these policy and institutional changes have yet to be fully integrated into the programming and budgeting processes, national financial support for training mid-level managers and technical staff has been scarce. Paying salaries and maintaining ongoing operations are obviously the highest priority, and many times that leaves little disposable funding for activities such as training. The Bank therefore adopted the position that training was fundamental for protecting the political capital expended to bring about these changes, for better managing installed institutional capacity, for ensuring the long-term viability of existing loans, and for following up on the mandates of Rio,2 Santa Cruz,3 and other international and regional agreements and protocols.

Given that many of these policy and institutional changes have yet to be fully integrated into the programming and budgeting processes, national financial support for training mid-level managers and technical staff has been scarce. Paying salaries and maintaining ongoing operations are obviously the highest priority, and many times that leaves little disposable funding for activities such as training. The Bank therefore adopted the position that training was fundamental for protecting the political capital expended to bring about these changes, for better managing installed institutional capacity, for ensuring the long-term viability of existing loans, and for following up on the mandates of Rio,2 Santa Cruz,3 and other international and regional agreements and protocols.

This position is also strongly substantiated by analyses carried-out by the International Environment Technology Center of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP/IETC), which determined that gaps in technical knowledge hindered decision makers. In addition, the UN found that short-duration, national and regional level workshops maximize training in technologies related to environmental assessment.4 More recently, the workshop evaluations (that are filled out by each participant at the end of the World Bank certified course) substantiated a widespread recognition that short courses have provided a major contribution to the understanding of EA in the project cycle. As there are no specific courses in this topic in most education institutions in LAC, Bank-sponsored short courses in EA represent a cost-effective investment for increasing capacity of project managers and national counterpart staff. Therefore a workshop series was designed with these principles in mind to bridge this knowledge gap.